1. You’ve been busy lately, with Tick Tick Boom at the Westport Country Playhouse and The Rock Tenor at The Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia, and other projects like Alien Vs. Predator Laser Tag at Dreamworld in Australia and benefit concerts for Covenant House. You also won an award for lighting the ISES Big Apple Awards, as well as a Redden Award at LDI, and to top it off, you participated in a panel at LDI about inspiration for designers. What inspires you?
I draw inspiration from everything I see. Generally, I start with fine art—Hopper, Caravaggio, Maxfield Parrish. Movies and films, still photography. I see gobos and breakups in all shadows. Sunsets and skylines are particularly evocative. New York’s buildings catch late afternoon sunlight so well, and they frequently turn deep, saturated colors that you don’t expect to see in nature. Last week, I saw a beautiful lavender reflected in an oblique angle of the Time Warner building from a sunset over New Jersey.
2. What was the most interesting or challenging of your recent projects?
The Rock Tenor at the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia was a challenge—a full rock/classical concert in a space that does drama and without any followspots. We were also piggybacked onto a ballet rep plot, so we chose to use booms and motivated a lot of the lighting from shins and footlights. The look was eclectic but worked great. The ballet rep plot consisted of a lot of PAR downlights and, of course, many low angle ellipsoidals on booms. Load-in and changeover had to be fast and easy, so we chose to shove the evenly spaced PAR washes tightly together and swapped lenses to make big bold ACL-style looks. The head-highs on the booms worked great to highlight the performers and the band. The low sets of shins became gobo washes that shot over the performers to form a cathedral in the haze for some of the more classical moments. The farthest upstage booms became backlights to our scenic spandex walls. These also projected silhouettes of our two string players. To enable quick changeovers, we put Robe ColorSpot 575 XTs on rovers and used them as backlights and for gobo effects.
Another project is an Off Broadway show called Loaded that requires a 90-minute sunset, but it is accompanied by a similar shift in light through a skylight and a double-hung window. I’m planning on using eight of the same window gobos and slowly fading them to evoke the change in time and quality of light. The trick will be to subliminally fade the gobo and “replace” it with a different angle to subtly tell the audience that time is passing and the daylight is fading. My color palette is drawn from Edward Hopper and, surprisingly, the 1980s film About Last Night. The sunset palette will be drawn from this time of year in New York, in the late afternoon and evening.
3. What is the best advice you’ve ever heard?
“It’s art. There is no right or wrong answer, as long as you achieve your goal, and you are pleased with the way it looks.” The corollary is, of course, that it helps if your collaborators, directors, and clients are happy with it too, or you’ll be working alone.
4. And the worst?
“Designers shouldn’t work as electricians.” This is an old assumption that you didn’t want to get labeled as an electrician or programmer. I think working closely with the tools of your craft is incredibly important and helps you to solve problems and invent new solutions when you need them.
5. What advice would you give to a designer starting in the business today?
Never say no if you have the time and the means to do the job. No job is too small to learn from or try something new. Try not to say no to directors or clients, even if it is an impossible request. There is always a creative way to solve something.